LGBT rights in Russia post-Winter Olympics

(6) LGBT Month image

By Catherine Kiernan

Imagine living in a community, in fear of your life due to some innate trait: being a woman, or a man, being black, or being white. One can only imagine the frustration living such a life could have on a person: the torment they must feel; the endless desire to change oneself, with the hopeless reality of knowing such a change is not possible.

Living under the disheartening circumstance described above is the heart-breaking reality for those of the LGBT community living in Russia. In the Russian community being gay is considered a sinful act, or even considered a ‘mental illness’. This is no secret, as the Winter Olympics of 2014 held in Sochi meant the world focus on Russia shed a light on the ill treatment that the gay community have to tolerate.

Unlike in Scotland, homosexual individuals do not have protection by the state. Until recently,  homosexuality was illegal in Russia. This law was lifted as a result of international public pressure.

However, a discriminatory propaganda law was enforced in June 2013 disallowing gay relationships, or anything other than ‘traditional’ values to be portrayed in propaganda anywhere visible to children. Therefore, despite allowing homosexuality, it is still perceived by the government to be a wrongful act.

Channels 4 Dispatches showed an insight into the lives of Russian’s Gay community through the film Hunted.  It showed gangs taking pleasure in ‘cleansing’ their community by seeking out gay men and women, and using torture methods against them. The film showed one gang enticing a homosexual man into an apartment, in order to repeatedly beat him, and then interrogate him regarding his sexuality and personal details, such as his name and address. This act was filmed with the intent to publish this information on the internet, so as to allow other gangs and homophobic opponents to find the gay man if they wish to impose some more torment upon him at their leisure.

Some believe the reason the government is advocating violence against homosexuality as a distraction over the people from the deteriorating political regime in Russia: consisting of economic and political hardship.

The current conditions do not appear to be improving soon: in fact, on the 29th of December 2014 Russian Government enacted a law banning those with ‘mental illness’ from driving, including those who are “transsexual and transgender”, in an attempt to control road accidents. The law has provoked a backlash from gay rights activists, including an appeal from Human Rights First  for America to enforce a ‘special envoy’ for the rights of homosexual and transgender individuals worldwide.

As a person raised in Western society, the idea of hunting a person due to their sexual orientation seems barbaric. If an individual here were to treat even an animal in such a way they would promptly be arrested. I am somewhat reminded of the ideas of theorist Thomas Hobbes and his theory of the ‘state of nature’. Hobbes believed men were simply unable to live civilly together, and that the bleak reality was that men would always resort to violence as a way of obtaining resources. However, such acts of torture among members of society are a rarity within contemporary Western Society, proving men can live together in harmony, at least to some extent. Therefore, one cannot help but wonder what motives do these gangs have in acting as predators over homosexual individuals in Russia?

Maybe the question is not why such circumstances exist, but instead how does society cure such a cancer? As in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people”.}